Thursday, January 20, 2011

Week 1 Reflections

Week 1 Reflections

     Week 1 introduces us to the intellectual world of colonial and revolutionary America. We want to understand, first, how early Americans—colonial British Americans and later citizens of the newly established United States—thought about, or “imagined” the world that lay beyond the familiar Atlantic community.  And, we want to appreciate, second, the forces “critical era” that drove American merchants to search beyond the Atlantic for new markets and goods.

     In preparation for Week 2, consider the report below that was published in the New Hampshire Gazette for 17 May 1785:

1.  The unnamed source was, in fact, Samuel Shaw, supercargo (business agent) aboard the Empress of China.  What were Shaw’s concerns? What message did he want to convey to his audience?

2.  How do you interpret Shaw’s language?  What does this suggest to us about the republican values of the new nation?

3.  How did Shaw represent the experience of encounter in Canton?

4.  What do you think a reader’s response might have been?

 Fowle’s New Hampshire Gazette (27 May 1785)

     We have the satisfaction of announcing the arrival of the ship Empress of China, Captain Green, commander, from the East-Indies, at this port, yesterday, after a voyage of fourteen months and twenty-four days.
May 16
     As the accounts of the reception which the ship Empress of China met with on her arrival in China, have been variously represented in the different newspapers of this country, a gentleman on board has furnished us with the following particular, selected from his Journal.
     “On the 17th of July last, we made the island of Java and the following evening came to anchor in the Streights of Lunda [Sunda]: on this occasion our happiness was greatly augmented, by finding there two ships belonging to our good allies, the French. The Commodore, Mons. D'Ordelin, and his officers, welcomed us in the most affectionate manner; and as his own ship was immediately bound for Canton, gave us an invitation to go  in company with him.  This friendly offer we most cheerfully accepted, and the Commodore furnished us with his signal, by day and night, and added such instructions, for our passage 
through the Chinese seas, as would have been exceedingly beneficial had any unfortunate incident occasioned our separation: but happily we pursued our rout together. On our arrival at the island of Macao, the 23rd of August, the French Consul for China, with some other gentlemen of his nation, came on board to congratulate and welcome us to that part of the world; and kindly undertook the introduction of the Americans to the Portuguese 
Governour of that place. The little time that we were there was entirely taken up by the good  offices of the Consul, the gentlemen of his nation, and those of the Swedes and Imperialists, who still remained at Macao; the other Europeans had repaired to Canton.—Three days afterwards we finished our outward bound voyage.  Previous to coming to anchor, we saluted the shipping in the river with thirteen guns; which were answered by the several Commodores of the European nations, each of whom sent an officer to compliment
us on our arrival. These visits were returned by the Captain and Supercargoes in the afternoon who were again saluted by the respective ships, as they finished their visit. When the French sent their officers to congratulate us, they added to the obligations we were already under to them; by furnishing men, boats and anchors, to assist us in coming to safe and convenient moorings. Nor did their good offices stop here; they furnished us with part of their own banksall, and insisted further, that until we were settled we should take up our quarters with them at Canton.
     “The day of our arrival at Canton, August the 30th, and the two following days, we were visited by the Chinese merchants, and the chiefs and gentlemen of the several European establishments, and treated by them, in all respects as citizens of a free and independent nation: as such, during our stay, we were universally considered.  The Chinese themselves were very indulgent towards us, and happy in the contemplation of a new people,
opening to view a fresh source of commerce to their extensive empire.
      “After remaining near four months at canton, and experiencing, from all hands, every possible attention, we set sail for America the 28th of December, and happily arrived in this port on the 11th instant.


  1. This is my take on the passage above:

    Shaw appears to have wanted to convey a message to his audience that their new nation was being not only accepted, but respected by the rest of the world. Shaw’s language seems to be overwhelming encouraging, especially in the way he describes his ship’s interactions with their allies as well as the inhabitance of both the island of Macao and Canton. His excitement at the positive reception he and the rest of his crew received from all the parties they encountered suggests the importance of international affairs to the new nation. Shaw represented the experience in Canton as a warm reception to the “new people” of America. He describes how the Chinese, in particular, were incredibly gracious and indulgent of the men. Shaw makes it clear that the Chinese were excited at the prospect of having a new nation to trade with, another step in broadening their empire. I feel that a reader’s response to this excerpt would have been optimistic. It is a promising early report of how the new nation is being received by the rest of the world.

  2. In his report to Fowle’s New Hampshire Gazette on 17 May 1785, Samuel Shaw illustrates his experiences upon the ship the Empress of China, as well as in a new world, and opens the door to the curious readers of the new nation. He tells of concerns, interpretations, and the cross-cultural interactions. Though travel by boat was the norm in the 18th century, it still brought with it phobias and trepidations. Shaw tells of some of these concerns, but in more gentle and subtle language. He says that the crew of the Empress of China received explicit instructions from the French Commodore, Mons. D'Ordelin, “for our passage through the Chinese seas, as would have been exceedingly beneficial had any unfortunate incident occasioned our separation.” He also consistently refers to people congratulating them on a safe voyage and arriving at their intended destination. It appears that Shaw wants his audience to know, in gentle terms, that this voyage is an arduous and dangerous one, but is also one full of allies who help out along the way and ends with the Chinese being “indulgent.” The language he uses to illustrate his voyage gives the message subtlety.
    The language Shaw employs to describe his overall experience is the language of an educated gentleman. He chooses his words wisely in order to convey images of gentlemanly interactions, positive alliances, and subtle allusions to the danger of the sea. He also details great pomp and circumstance as he tells of how the ship “saluted the shipping in the river with thirteen guns; which were answered by the several Commodores of the European nations.” The phrasing here, and throughout the passage, demonstrates a man who wants to impress his audience with the way in which the new America is greeted in the Far East. He also states that, upon arrival in Canton, they are treated “as citizens of a free and independent nation,” and how this consideration was followed with indulgences and aided in the Chinese merchants “opening to view a fresh source of commerce to their extensive empire.” The stress on the positive is what Shaw demonstrates to his audience.
    Samuel Shaw’s mix of subtle language and stressing the positive experiences in a distant land most likely hit an equally optimistic chord with the reader. To hear of how a young nation was respected and indulged on the seas and in Canton surely gave birth to pride and curiosity in the American maritime trade, which had long been monopolized by Britain. The new nation was now faced with new opportunities and Shaw’s report confirmed these prospects.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Though there are many other accounts from voyages from America to foreign ports, this account by Samuel Shaw is particularly valuable to a historian because it makes note of not only the business side of trade, but also the human side. Overall, Shaw seems to be concerned not only about the voyage to Canton, but also how the Chinese merchants will react to his trade offer. These two concerns are quite legitimate because at this time to Americans, Canton is a new port, just opened to US trade after the Treaty of Paris is signed. Shaw and his crew do not know exactly what to expect when they are sailing to Canton, and don’t even know how they will be welcomed by the Chinese. He makes it very clear that he is quite happy with the hospitality he and his crew receive during the voyage and after arriving in Canton. Shaw accounts that, “…we were visited by the Chinese merchants, and the chiefs and gentlemen of the several European establishments, and treated by them, in all respects as citizens of a free and independent nation: as such, during our stay, we were universally considered. The Chinese themselves were very indulgent towards us…” Shaw is happy and relieved that his ship is welcomed by the Chinese merchants and any American back in the United States reading this would also be relieved by Shaw’s words. Once American ships were able to trade with Canton and other Chinese ports, goods such as porcelain, spices, tea, and silk could be brought back to the United States and our new country would see economic growth. Like many people in the United States, Shaw seemed to hope to carry on the trade with exotic and foreign countries that had, before the Revolution, been carried out by British merchants. Finally, after a bloody war, it was America’s time to open up trade with these exotic ports, and bring in goods that would help propel the new country into prosperity.

  5. After reading the above passage, Samuel Shaw was conveying his concerns about how he himself, and the representation of his nation, would be accepted by their possible barter partners. Shaw wanted the world to know that he was entering this potential business situation with an open mind and in high spirits with the intention on complying a deal with the Chinese. Shaw portrays in his language a very positive message by simply using positive adjectives. When speaking about his arrival on the 17th he stated that, “our happiness was greatly augmented” and when speaking about the French offer, “ This friendly offer, we most cheerfully accepted.” Shaw wanted to put his best foot forward and start of the China trade on a positive note. He language stresses the significance and importance to him and the nation. Shaw again stressed the importance of how positive the interaction was with the Chinese. He described it as “respectful” and “exciting” Any reader with interest, or concerns, about the Chinese trade would look at this with the outmost utopian view. Shaw has portrayed every positive encounter in this article with the hopes of having the support of his nation.

  6. Shaw's description of his voyage to China is very positive. Based on this passage, it seems that Shaw did not have any concerns about his voyage. Obviously, he must have had some concerns as a representative of a new nation trying to build trade relations in a foreign land, but I do not get the feeling that his writings necessarily describe his concerns in any detail. I do not believe that Shaw was trying to convey any specific message to his audience because at the time that he wrote this passage he did not realize that it would be published--it was written in his personal journal. However, because it was published, it did convey a message. I believe that the message it conveyed was that the allies that the U.S. had, most notably France, were willing and able to aid the U.S. in integrating into trade relations with the far east.

  7. 1.What were Shaw's concerns? What message did he want to convery to this audience?

    There were two main concerns of Shaw. Would other foreign forces like French show friendly to Americans? Were Chinese going to welcome the people from a new nation? Shaw was trying to tell his readers that Americans were well-accepted and well-welcomed.

    2. How do you interpret Shaw's language? What does this suggest to us about the republican values of the new nation?

    Shaw seemed very cheerful about his trip. He was very happy with the acceptance of his new nation. His language also reflected a new nation's desire of conquering the world by merchant ships.

    How did Shaw represent the experience of encounter in Canton?

    Shaw discribed Chinese merchants were "indulgent" and like to do business with a new source. Shaw thought he already built up a businuess relationship in Canton.

    What do you think a reader’s response might have been?

    I suppose people who read this article could probably be inspired to go to China doing business.

    Shaw's article shows that the early American merchants went to China with strong desire. They also cared a lot about their national identity. However, his image about China was superfucial because he failed to go deeper into this country. His suggestion was not based on a thorough probe but rather a wishful thinking.
    -----By Ting

  8. It appears that Shaw wished to show the American public that they were being welcomed not only by the Chinese they were trading with but also by other members of the trading community, such as the French and Portuguese. Also Shaw appears to wish to convey that even though the Americans were joining into the trading community they were not forgeting that they were Americans first. This can be seen in the language Shaw used such as saying "The day of our arrival at Canton, August the 30th, and the two following days, we were visited by the Chinese merchants, and chifs and gentlemen of the several European establishments, and treated by them, in all respects as citizens of a free and independent nation: as such, during our stay, we were universally considered". It can be seen in this quote that the Americans are being taken seriously by the other nations. The overall picture created by Shaw would have been very comforting to the American reader letting them know that Americans were welcomed not only by the other countries involved in trade but also by the Chinese who "themselves were very indulgent towards us, and happy in the contemplation of a new people, opening to view a fresh source of commerce to their extensive empire" that did not involve the British East India Company.

  9. After reading the passage from the New Hampshire Gazette for 17 May 1785 from Samuel Shaw’s personal account, one is able to depict that Shaw was genuinely excited/pleased with the outcome of the expedition and the hospitality that was presented to the ship and crew. In a time when developing new trade with distant countries apprehension is a great. Through Shaw’s words it seems he wanting to illustrate a positive place of trade and new friendship; that will open doors to a new source of commerce. Shaw’s language is cheerful, very upbeat, and complementing. A reader’s response to this publication probably would have been excitement. This article leads the reader to believe that trade with this new nation will be a good endeavor for the economy.
    It is almost as Shaw is desperately trying to convince reader’s that this new source of trade is a good idea and must be supported. Overall, Shaw represents the encounter in Canton as quintessential experience that should be experienced again.

  10. Samuel Shaw rightfully had concerns that any colonial British American would have traveling into the unknown seas of the Far East. One of his main concerns was traveling these unknown seas to a new place. There are a number of setbacks that could have occurred; hostile ships, migrating uncharted territory, and unwelcoming natives. Some of these concerns may have been eased by the sight of familiar allied ships of the French. The French greatly helped Shaw’s voyage by offering company, guidance and support on the way to Canton. Shaw’s message to his audience may have been that although dangerous, there is a great deal of future to be had in the Far East.
    Shaw like many colonial British-Americans had an opportunistic view. During the Age of Enlightenment, the republican values and ideals focused on tolerance, democracy, and liberty. Shaw represents these ideals by showing his openness to new, previously un-ventured land. His opportunistic language suggests many new opportunities for his ship and country. His description of relationships with the European and Chinese offer a promising future in commerce in the Far East.
    In Canton, Shaw depicts his encounters with Chinese merchants. He describes how welcoming and open their new encounters were to them. Shaw suggests to the reader that of an optimistic future in commerce with the Chinese. He suggests that the Chinese, as well as the Europeans treat his ship with respect and dignity, upholding both America’s and Shaw’s republican values.
    A reader may have responded by thinking that there was a great deal of opportunity in regards to commerce in the Far East. I feel that Shaw has made it easy to see that there are gains to be made with trading with the Chinese. The reader’s previous concerns may have been eased after reading what a delightful encounter Shaw has experienced.

  11. After reading this passage, It seems evident that Shaw's concerns revolved primarily around the unknown. He was afraid of traveling to the Far East, an unknown part of the world, and was concerned with the reception that the Americans would receive from both the Chinese and others trading in that region.
    Shaw's language is almost overly optimistic. He describes the French Commodore, Mons. D'Ordelin's friendly offer and talks about the locals cheerful attitude. Furthermore, he represents his encounter in Canton as one of mutual respect and of hospitality. He explains "the Chinese themselves were very indulgent towards us, and happy in the contemplation of a new people, opening to view a fresh source of commerce to their extensive empire."
    After reading this passage I think this description seems almost too good to be true. Consequently, although I think most readers would have been comforted by his description; thinking that there was opportunity to be had in this new land etc... I think some citizens would have remained wary of his overly rose-colored descriptions.

  12. After reading the article it can be seen that Shaw was a little wary about the passage to China and how they as Americans would be received. Any sailor during this time would be concerned about the well being of their ship, their men, and their cargo. Shaw shows that they were in good spirits when other ships were found to be of friends the French. Shaw does show that Americans were greeted by the French and all nations in this part of the world warmly. This is seen in the way the French help the American ship and upon their arrival the way that are greeted with members from every nation there. Shaw has a very excited and optimistic view on being in China from the way the other European nations and the Chinese merchants treated them. This was opening up new trade for both America and China it was seen as a good thing. The Americans back home reading this would most likely be pleased that they were being recognized on a global stage as independent people.

  13. Shaw's journal entries are written shortly after the American Revolution and there may have been apprehension at home as to how America's independence would be received by her new peers. His entries are strongly focused on the warm welcomes and offers of support by representatives of other European nations. His language and recordings indicate that they were welcomed not only as allies, but as fellow imperial powers- a role that was surely on the forefronts of many minds following separation from Britain and the efforts of the new country to establish its role in a global context. It should be noted that his mention of the Chinese is minimal compared to discussion of interactions with the French in Canton. The little reference that was included of domestic merchants describes the Chinese people as "indulgent" and "happy" to have a new Western power with which to do business. It should be noted that his presentation of the interactions in Canton lacks mention of any negative encounters. The gaping absence of any downsides draws attention to itself and may give the reader pause to wonder what Shaw is omitting.
    Shaw is accomplishing a few different missions in this entry. He is indicating that there are plenty of business opportunities for Americans in China, encouraging further U.S. merchants to build up for developed relations. There is also some national propaganda occurring as he emphasizes that European colonial powers consider America to be both an ally and a worthy competitor. The reader may take a number of things from these entries. He or she feel national pride for the first American merchant vessel to visit China, opening a new chapter is trade. They may feel excited or inspired about personal opportunities if involved in the shipping industry or importing commercial businesses. A sense of confidence can be derived from the knowledge that other European powers treated an American vessel as an ally. On the other hand the person could be wary of what is not included and the dangers of asymmetrical information.

  14. Shaw’s primary concern seems to be the acceptance of the newly established United States as a player on the world stage. A warm reception by not only the Chinese but also representatives of several European nations quickly assuaged Shaw’s anxiety. To Shaw’s undoubted reassurance, the Chinese and French subsequently doted on the Americans for the duration of their stay.
    By affirming America’s role in the world economy, Shaw also seems to be attempting to ease the fears of his audience, which may have reasonably included fear of the unknown East. Shaw incorporates several elements into his narrative that would create a sense of familiarity and comfort for late-eighteenth-century Americans. For example, every portion of Shaw’s journey brought him into close contact with various and seemingly numerous Westerners, whom Shaw mentions far more often than the Chinese. Shaw’s story was likely comforting and heartening for an America that was only just beginning to test the global waters.

    Jennifer Downing

  15. Samuel Shaw's account of his experiences with foreign countries is interesting and useful in seeing how Americans interacted with other countries at that time. We have many documents today describing life within America but we do not always get to read about how Americans dealt with trading and foreign countries. Though uneasy about the trip to a place they knew little about, Shaw portrays this as a very pleasant and welcoming encounter in Canton. In describing the interactions between Americans and the French, Portuguese or Chinese, Shaw is extremely positive. This positive attitude is to most likely encourage the readers that having relationships like this and trading with other countries is very beneficial to America. I think that Shaw's account was most likely very helpful at this time in making Americans more comfortable with foreign trade and relationships.

  16. Samuel Shaw seems most concerned with expressing to the general public, America more specifically, that the British trading business is a respectable and honorable form of employment. He appears to be quite optimistic about the idea of international trade between China and America. Shaw colorfully tries to display that the republican ideals of America are strongly alive throughout the world, and can be witnessed and experienced along the trade route with China.
    Shaw described their experience in Canton as a fulfilling one. He claimed that they were warmly welcomed by the Chinese and by other Europeans living and passing through that particular port of call. If I were to have read this article in 1785, holding the knowledge of an average citizen, I would have been quite pleased to know the long war between Britain and America was worth the bloodshed. Fichter points out in the first chapter of his book “So Great a Proffit” that part of the reason why the American revolution began was due to high tariffs on tea which was traded and shipped to America via Britain’s East India Company. This war allowed for cheaper trade between the East and the West. As an average citizen, I would have believed that I was free because of the war, and that my life and my country were improving due to what I had read in Samuel Shaw’s article in Fowle’s New Hampshire Gazette.

  17. Shaw seems anxious to advertise that America had been accepted and greatly welcomed as she took her place within the global community. Not only did he stress that no country appear to resent our intrusion into their realm of trade but he also stressed how the other countries went well beyond the basic required social courtesies and ensured that the Americans were offered every comfort and convenience that was available.

    In addition to physical comforts, the representatives of the other countries educated the Americans in the proper methods for dealing with the Chinese merchants. Without their guidance, the Americans would have been at a great disadvantage as they stumbled their way thru the necessary protocol, etc. which would have greatly inhibited their trading.

    Shaw’s descriptions of events and activities indicates that the Americans were able to conduct themselves as worldly gentlemen and not the primitive colonial bumpkins that they were consider by Britain, helping to portray themselves as equals among their peers instead of inferior upstarts. I think Shaw was also trying to convey this same idea to the American people so that they would also see themselves as equals in the world and not inferior.

    Shaw’s enthusiasm regarding the American’s experience with the Chinese in Canton was carefully worded to show that the Chinese accepted America as peers to the already established European traders and enthusiastically accepted them a new source of trade. No longer is America just a colony of Britain but an equal global country in trade.

    The restructuring of America and her new government, etc. fell mostly to the great “movers and shakers” of the revolution. Those men had great visions of what America could be and how she should be viewed in the global community. For the average American, freedom from Great Britain was simply a return to the life they had always known in America, before the tyranny of the king caused such upheaval in their lives. With peace, things went back to “normal”. Shaw’s article must surely have been an eye opener to the average American, helping them to see the potential for America and her ability to be an equal member of the global community. I can imagine that this article and subsequent events of this type must have gone a long way in creating a sense of national pride and esteem among he American people.

  18. 1. Shaw wished to assure his audience of the success of the mission. In consideration of the recession of the time, it was important to bring the attention of the American people to a real probability for economic viability. Shaw conveys a feeling of confidence and legitimacy; the evidence he provides anecdotally demonstrates the foreign powers will also be willing to take the new nation seriously and engage in commerce with the United States.
    2. Shaw is fluent in the language of republicanism and pointedly states that other groups already see Americans as “citizens of a free and independent nation.” However, he also discusses the manners of those with whom he engages: it is important to be genteel, polite, and hospitable. In this, he especially praises the Americans’ “good allies, the French,” who are kind enough to introduce the crew of the Empress to Portuguese officials.
    3. Shaw characterizes the Empress’s time in Canton as an unmitigated success; the Chinese and Europeans are gracious and friendly and the Chinese in particular, he says, are “happy… to view a fresh source of commerce.”
    4. For some readers, I think Shaw’s account may have been a spur to sign up for a voyage to China, braving the obvious dangers in hope of gaining profit and taking in new sights and places. It also would have served to restore confidence to both merchants and consumers and raised hopes of an economic upswing. A cynical reader, however, may have taken Shaw’s enthusiasm for rose-colored glasses.